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(54:56, Brennus Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Reve 6:51 2. Out of Nowhere 1:10 3. Halfway to Infinity 4:02 4. Vivre sans Lumiere 4:51 5. Waterfall 4:40 6. La Haine et la Souffrance 9:37 7. Timecurve Warcourse 5:22 8. Everything Is Nothing 6:48 9. SOS 5:29 10. My Secret Place 6:02 LINEUP: Steve – guitars Crock – vocals Francois – drums; b/v Nach – keyboards; b/v Stan – bass; b/v
Prolusion. The French band AWAKS was formed in 1990, but it has taken almost ten years for its participants to get around to recording their first studio material, “Panorama”, which, though, has nowadays the status of a demo. A follow-up to “Atmosphere 136” from 2003 (the review can be read here), “The Third Way” is officially considered to be their second release. One way or another, it is small wonder that, according to the musicians, the disc’s title reflects their regular change of musical course beginning with their factual debut. Oh, almost forgot: there are two new members in the band, bassist Stan and keyboardist Nash.
Analysis. While the band still retains its overall stylistic orientation, the change in their approach to songwriting and arranging, but even more so in their sound (which is sharper now, revealing more distinct metalloids), is evident. What heretofore was to a greater extent perceived as their personal vision of Hard Rock’s collective image, takes quite a definitive shape now, drawing some specific, easily-recognizable figures behind it, instead of more abstract ones. Much of this “Third Way” comes across as a heavy metal take on late ‘70s Uriah Heep (think hard, fast-paced songs, like Free-n-Easy from “Innocent Victim”) with some genuinely progressive tendencies which are reminiscent of the last decade’s non-concept albums by Savatage (e.g. “Handful of Rain” and “Edge of Thorns”), as well as a number of prog-metallish solo projects whose corresponding ambitions are embodied mainly by means of keyboards, such as Derek Sherinian or Vitalij Kuprij. In other words, the music bears its most advanced character in the majority of cases during speedy instrumental maneuvers, and inasmuch as those are driven either by synthesizers or piano, the appearance of the new keyboardist has definitely much to do with this. Still, I also hear passages that don’t remind me of anyone else – particularly many on La Haine et la Souffrance (Hate & Suffering), the longest track here, to be touched on when its time comes. Four of the ten compositions present, Reve (Dream), Vivre sans Lumiere (Live without Light), Everything Is Nothing and SOS, would be the brightest representatives of the recording’s prevalent style, all containing several different instrumental interludes, some of which border on Prog-Metal, with quite a few interesting ideas put forward there. Singer Crock sounds a lot like a somewhat rougher version of John Lawton (who replaced David Byron in the fall of 1976), particularly so on Halfway to Infinity and Timecurve Warcourse, both of which are fairly much in the same vein as the aforesaid Uriah Heep rocker, with a verse-chorus approach within most of their vocal sections. With Nash adding excellent backing piano in places, Waterfall and My Secret Place are, respectively, conventional and complicated hard rock ballads. The short instrumental cut Out of Nowhere is a semi-random interplay between synthesizer and bass with a variation of menacing effects serving as its backdrop, and would have left a better impression if had been used as an opening track. Standing out for its splendid symphonic nature of a mostly mixed Orientally-European coloration as well as contrast between metal solidity and symphonic grandeur in places, with plenty of excellent string arrangements, and also some fascinating sitar-like sounding parts, La Haine et la Souffrance is the band’s opus magnum to date, almost in every respect a brilliant composition, showing no traces of outside factors anywhere, save for its vocals-laden moves which are thankfully in the minority here. I would wish to see the band steer mostly in the same or a similar direction on their next effort.
Conclusion. Most of the time, Awaks sounds on this creation like a symphonic metal act that probably any major label would have been happy to take onboard back in the ‘80s. While showing no improvement over its predecessor, this is nevertheless a good creation within its genre category and should appeal to all fans of quasi-progressive heavy music with distinct symphonic leanings.
VM: July 27, 2008
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